A Most Gentle Passing

Denys Cope, author of Dying: A Natural Passage, has said,

My dream is that everyone be able to find the support that allows the fear of dying to be replaced by a richer, more positive experience which embraces the gifts that are available during this extraordinary time.”

I’m struck by this statement because my own dear aunt, 91 year old matriarch of our family, has recently passed away. She instructed the family that no extraordinary means be taken to prolong her life after a car accident and she requested that she be taken home. Surrounded by loving family she passed quietly and gently into death. Before this greatest of all events took place my sister Juliette asked her, “What is it like to die?” Aunt Helene told her, It is very pleasant and peaceful” Juliette expressed to her how all her family and friends have been gifted by her loving presence and Helene gave this commission, “Pass the cup with a warm hand.”

By her conscious dying she has called on our family (and I suggest the greater family of humankind) to consider the larger picture: the absoluteness of love. She calls on us to consider the larger reality of kindness, generosity, and love that permeates the seen and unseen worlds. Aunt Helene leaves us with the commission to stretch beyond our self-interest and open our hearts to (in the words of the late theologian, Brother Wayne Teasdale), “quantum leaps of love and compassion, founded on an ever-expanding sensitive awareness of others.”

In her dying she radiated love and forgiveness and we are reminded to carry forward that path—as they say “pay it forward.”

Let me conclude with a prayer that came to Brother Teasdale as he was coming out of a deep contemplative meditation.

“ O Blessed One, transform us (all humanity) into the boundless Love you are, and let us always radiate this Love to you, to one another, and to all those we meet (including other sentient beings) unto eternal life.”  Teasdale goes on to say, “This prayer is an intention and a practice, a practice that incarnates the intention in the center of our awareness. May this practice, this intention take root in us all, and lead us into greater freedom, generosity, and change, culminating in a new human order: a civilization with a heart!”

If you are interested in hearing our interviews with Brother Teasdale, put Teasdale in the search box on the website. Three interviews will come up. Click on each one and you’ll find the full descriptions.

By Justine Willis Toms
May 2012